We’ve all seen our dogs deeply asleep, with paws and legs twitching. There have even been times when my dog puts her head up while sleeping and howls like a wolf. (She usually wakes herself up, too).
Do our dogs dream?
All evidence points to an answer of ‘yes’.
Researchers know, for example, that the EEGs (electroencephalograms) of sleeping dogs show brain wave activity similar to humans during sleep. There is a period of sleep known as REM sleep (REM means rapid eye movement) when breathing becomes irregular and the eyes twitch. Sound familiar?
When humans have been wakened during REM sleep, they report that they have been dreaming and so there is no reason to think that our dogs aren’t dreaming.
Matthew Wilson, Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says that animals have complex dreams and are able to retain and recall long sequences of events while they are asleep.
His work involved rats and monitoring their brain wave activity when they were asleep and awake. He also tracked the effect of sleep on learning of repetitive tasks.
Professor Wilson has said of his work “dreams are the ultimate off-line experience. This work demonstrates that animals are capable of re-evaluating their experiences when they are not in the midst of them.”
By the way, dogs, cats and rabbits are crepuscular which means that they naturally tend to be more active at dawn and at dusk. Humans are diurnal which means they are most active during the day (which explains why night shifts are so hard on people). Dogs seem to adjust their own sleep habits to match those of their owners.